Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Album Review: Clan of Xymox - Kindred Spirits
Clan of Xymox
What is your opinion of a good cover song, or cover songs in general? For me, I am not a huge fan of cover songs, especially when it is a well-known or iconic song for a band. In that instance, I would rather hear the original than an inferior copy. If you are going to do a cover, make it a song you think can be improved, or a song that has personal, deep meaning to you. Don't just put together a glorified karaoke version of a popular hit. Goth rock/synthpop act Clan of Xymox have been around since the 1980s, signed to the venerable 4AD label, but were always given short-shrift because their sound was just a little too close to that of their influences. Somehow the band, under the leadership of Ronny Moorings, has remained active over the last 30 years, releasing a surprisingly diverse catalog of music. While I have always had a bit of a soft spot for them, they have never been truly ground breaking or ahead of the curve, but they are always a nice guilty pleasure. Now in their 30th year, they have released Kindred Spirits, a album of cover versions of songs and artists that have influenced and inspired them. There is nothing wrong per se with wanting to honor those artists by covering their songs, but in this case, the versions are so close to the original tracks that it begs the question as to why even bother in the first place, when you can easily listen to the originals. The attention to getting the music down exactly is so unoriginal as to be a joke. Only on a couple of songs does Moorings even try to create a slightly different version of the track, and still comes up with something bland and unoriginal.
Only on a couple of tracks does Moorings and company try to put their own stamp on some well-known tracks. Siouxsie & The Banshees "Red Light" gets a more trip-hop/industrial slant to the original's minimal sci-fi synth aesthetic,
David Bowie's "Heroes" adds more swooning synths to beds of skywriting guitars,
and creating an electro-synth pop take on Radiohead's "Creep," while a good idea in theory, is marred by a very lackluster vocal.
The remainder of covers literally sound like vocals were put over the original backing track. There is almost nothing to recommend on their versions of New Order's "Blue Monday," The Cure's "A Forest," or Nine Inch Nails' "Something I Can Never Have" because they are merely karaoke versions. It is just mind-boggling why someone would choose to basically do a note for note, instrument for instrument copy of a song when I can just choose to listen to the original for better inspiration. I'm sure Ian Curtis is rolling in his grave over the tired recreation of "Decades," and Depeche Mode should see if their original backing tracks are missing for their take on "Question of Time."
There really is no need for this record to have been released. I just don't see the point or purpose of slavishly recreating these songs. It is one thing to honor your influences, but another just to generate half assed versions of their tracks. Save your money and buy the original versions; it will be a much more rewarding experience.
Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.
Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.
Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.
Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.
Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.
Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.
Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.